Stack exchange is a Q&A site, unlike other message boards members may be familiar with. The Tour offers this simple statement of when to use comments:
Use comments to ask for more information or clarify a question or answer.
And from the help section -
You should submit a comment if you want to:
- Request clarification from the author
- Leave constructive criticism that guides the author in improving the post
- Add relevant but minor or transient information to a post (e.g. a link to a related question, or an alert to the author that the question has been updated).
Perhaps more important, also from the same section -
Comments are not recommended for any of the following:
- Suggesting corrections that don't fundamentally change the meaning of the post; instead, make or suggest an edit;
- Answering a question or providing an alternate solution to an existing answer; instead, post an actual answer (or edit to expand an existing one);
- Compliments which do not add new information ("+1, great answer!"); instead, up-vote it and pay it forward;
- Criticisms which do not add anything constructive ("-1, see previous comments you scallywag!"); instead, down-vote (and provide or up-vote a better answer if appropriate);
- Secondary discussion or debating a controversial point; please use chat instead;
- Discussion of community behavior or site policies; please use meta instead.
We've been trying to push members to avoid offering "answers in comments" for multiple reasons -
- No ability to edit
- Cannot be voted down, when warranted
- Does not offer rep to member
- Lost when a mod needs to move full comment chain to chat.
The effort for the above has been in place for some time, as a mod I've used a macro to add this to such a comment -
Fill in member name - We are trying to enforce "too good to be a comment" - please consider deleting it, and write it as a full answer to the question. See the meta question Should answers be left in the comments? for more details.
This post is put up to share the above and to also try to move the bar on how we handle comments moving forward. In my opinion, if we use the tour reason for comments e.g. "Please add a country tag", once the question (or answer) addresses the request, the comments can easily be deleted and no one should object. And should a comment thread go off into a long discussion, no one should be surprised if it suddenly vanishes.
I've written this as a statement. The questions to members -
From your perspective, do you object to the above? Or do you feel the above is not the intent of the 'comment' definition on SE?
For longer term members - Does this feel like a shift in behavior or enforcing something we've really had in place for some time?
I am hopeful we can see member response here, and ultimately, after some editing, use this as the link to the objection "where did the comments just go?" when asked.
Note: This question was partially prompted by the recent How would I go about deleting my account? which really was a reaction to comments and the newbie badge.
Last, when I visited a mod-only chat room, the level of enforcement regarding comments was not really consistent. Each board tends to have its own personality. For what it's worth, my own view from the modding effort is that most behavior issues are contained within comments. Not all, but most. If you answer below, please be mindful of the distinction between the two issues ('answer in comment' vs 'general chatter') cited above. Addressing them has different reasons and results.
Edit - other stacks are addressing this same issue, if anyone wishes to see their Meta question on this topic
From Interpersonal - Please don't write answers in comments
From English Language and Usage - Is SE enforcing “no answers in comments”?
From Role-Playing Games - Why are site comments being deleted?